We had some major changes at work today. These will see some 800 employees moved to external service providers. Another couple of hundred will be facing new challenges. This is the euphemistic phrase for being made redundant. The lucky 800 were herded into a meeting space outside my team’s office space to be processed and assigned to their new teams. To keep nerves calm and impart a feel-good atmosphere, cake was being served.
Who would like cake?
The company I work for has seen many cuts and changes in the past few years as it struggles to keep it’s head above water. Generally this seems to be working as it’s public face is still very much in the news and it’s products are regularly being released.
Due to employment laws (to the best of my knowledge), this means that ‘The Company’, can move it’s employees to an external company and not have to pay any redundancy settlements. The flip-side is that these workers are now on a 4 month probationary period during which employment can terminated without notice or compensation. The cake might well be a lie.
I just don’t know how numbers work, but the external agency will need to make money on the deal. If the number of employees and their salaries stay constant, this isn’t going to happen. So either someone will get the boot, or the salaries will drop.
When thinking about this big company I work for, in times gone by there was a fair amount of prestige to work here, and I guess, the feeling of being part of something. As time goes by and more employees are outsourced, this prestige seems to slowly fading away and I can imagine a point in time where the management board is the only direct employees. Contracting from external agencies for hardware design, software design, human resources etc. may mean the company is flexible and modular, but it will also leave workers feeling disposable. The ‘we made this’ feeling will almost non-existent. Not knowing if you will still be working with your colleague after the close of the current project does very little to encourage motivation or a sense of ownership.
This lack of connection also is becoming evident in our communities. For example, instead of our food coming from local suppliers, it now comes from the other countries and often the other side of world. Instead of buying produce from local shops we use internet shopping sites for convenience. These are often are cheaper in the short term, but denies custom to our local shops and traders thus weakening them. We outsource our brain, memory, social relationships to computers, internet search engines and social networking websites which are a poor substitute for the drinking coffee with a close friend and feeling the hard surface of a table under your elbows.
It takes a village to raise a child
An African saying observes that it takes a village to raise a child. In our family we’ve been fortunate enough to experience this. From the mad inventor types who spark creative ideas in the boys, to the less rigid uncles and aunts who let kids stay up late and do the things I’d love them to do, but hold on too tight to let them. There are also the grannies and aunties they go to to be pampered when we think they’ve had too much ice-cream already. Our boys are happy and confident, but it’s taken a virtual village to get us to this point. In this virtual village we have also had our own personal supporters who have cheered us on many times.
These relationships of course are two way and this keeps us all strong. All of us have some skill, talent or ability which is unique or rare amongst those we are in contact with. These are the skills which we should be actively seeking to put into use in the village in which we might find ourselves. Our place in this invisible structure seems to be the provider of coffee, pancakes and spanners.
Linking this to the company I work for; in the same that the constant structural changes and outsourcing weakens the links between departments and colleagues and thus threatens the future of the brand and product, I believe changes in our social environment, if left unchecked, will continually weaken the virtual village in which we live to the detriment of all.
If you want to really enjoy your cake, make and share it with your best friends.